Biden Administration Quietly Steps Up Effort to Close Guantanamo

The Biden administration is revamping its effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, for the first time appointing a senior diplomat to oversee detainee transfers and signaling it won’t interfere with plea negotiations that could resolve the long-stalled prosecution of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants.

After taking a low-profile approach to the matter for the first year of his term to avoid political controversy, President Biden is moving closer to fulfilling a campaign promise to shut the facility, people familiar with the matter said.

The facility at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba was set up in January 2002 to house alleged foreign terrorists captured overseas. Guantanamo has held nearly 800 men since then; only 36 detainees remain at the facility today, after hundreds were returned home or resettled in third countries by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. The newest detainee arrived in 2008; some of the men have been held for two decades.

Nine of the remaining detainees are defendants in military commission proceedings, including five accused of conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft, and terrorism in the Sept. 11 case.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri has been charged with perfidy, murder in violation of the law of war, terrorism, conspiracy, and hazarding a vessel in planning attacks on three vessels, including the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.

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